In the northeast, we have been waiting for spring to settle in, instead of seeing it skitter away while winter or summer temperatures fill the gap. With the scent of flowers and blooming trees, both adults and kids are reconnecting with the joy and pleasures of nature. This can also reawaken the desire to keep the planet healthy and to protect its resources.
As I packed up my son's turtlenecks and pulled down the short-sleeve shirts he'd be happy to wear all year round, I wondered how I was going to clean his winter coat. It was non-washable, and I didn't want to use the traditional chemical approach. A week later, I got the answer when I passed a cleaners a few blocks away from my apartment. It had a big sign in the window stating, "U.S. Organic Dry Cleaners. Non-Toxic." I stopped in to ask some questions and left with a card, relieved that I had found a positive solution to my problem.
The following Saturday, as the first tulips were working their way up out of dirt patches surrounded by pavement, the green market that serves my community was in full swing. Adjacent to the merchants selling fruits, cakes, vegetables and fish, there was a recycling drive. Electronics, paper, clothing and other items were being collected by the company WeRecycle!, which services the entire northeast area. I found out via e-mail from the action's organizer that 4,000 pounds of electronics, 6,000 pounds of shredded paper and 26 giant duffel bags of clothing had been collected. That day's haul of batteries came to 210 pounds.
The people I saw bringing their items to the sidewalk were excited to have the opportunity to help. They wanted get involved and be proactive. They had reached a place where they understood the stakes. They were ready to put skin in the game. I saw many mothers with their children, explaining how outgrown clothing can help someone else.
Mothers are a influential demographic to be reckoned with. As they gain awareness of risks to their families' health, they will claim their power. There is no more potent force than a mother who is fighting for the safety of her children. They don't have to be trained advocates, just spurred to mobilize in their own respective ways. Think Lois Gibbs, who despite no experience in community organizing, acted when she learned that her son's elementary school had been built on a toxic waste dump. Through her efforts, it was revealed that the whole town of Love Canal, NY, was sitting on top of 21,000 tons of toxic waste.
Recently, I received an e-mail through the Sierra Club, from a woman named Melissa Mosher who characterized herself as "a proud mom with a wonderful husband and two fantastic kids." Located in Sheboygan, Wisc., she wrote of living a few miles away from a coal-fired plant that is polluting the community. It has caused 44 deaths and 740 asthma attacks in the period of twelve months. This has compelled her to take action.
I invite those mothers who may not think of themselves as political or as activists -- yet -- to start the journey by sending an e-mail to the EPA. Let them know that clean air and water are a priority for our families. Then go out and enjoy the warm weather!
Painting Courtesy of Marcia G. Yerman
This article was written for the Moms Clean Air Force blog.